Quick settlement on Palo Alto fire measure

Judge meets with attorneys Thursday (Aug. 26) and after a brief session they emerge with an agreement on ballot-argument language

After a frenetic day and evening of phone calls and e-mails Wednesday, a settlement was reached Thursday (Aug. 26) on the ballot argument relating to Measure R. Measure R is the Palo Alto petition-based measure that would force a citywide election before any Fire Department staff cutbacks or station closures could be done.

It was almost a record for a quick settlement, partly because the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters' office is under a Monday deadline to send the ballot-arguments booklet to the printer.

The anti-Measure R campaign, "SAFE Palo Alto," had filed suit claiming "blatantly false" statements in the pro-Measure R ballot argument, primarily that only "one or two" persons could approve closing a station or reducing staff. The lawsuit said it would take a City Council majority approval for such actions.

Former Mayor Dena Mossar, chair of the anti-Measure R group, said that after a hectic day when attorneys for the group, the Registrar of Voters and Measure R proponent Alan Davis "wrangled" over detailed wording, it went before Superior Court Judge Kevin J. Murphy Thursday morning in San Jose.

Judge Murphy called all three attorneys into his chambers at the mid-morning hearing, and when they emerged a short time later they had agreed to a settlement, Mossar reported.

The revised language states that "Such a decision should not be made solely by the city council" in lieu of one or two individuals.

Jay Thorwaldson

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Like this comment
Posted by jerryl
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 27, 2010 at 11:54 am

Someone should file suit against the false and misleading name of
"SAFE Palo Alto" when they seem to be pushing for exactly the opposite of what their name was chosen to imply.

Like this comment
Posted by go SAFE!
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 27, 2010 at 12:05 pm

No, Jerryl, they are rescuing Palo Alto. Unlike the Union that seeks to bankrupt it.

Like this comment
Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on Aug 28, 2010 at 6:28 pm

I wasn't going to support this, but now I will.

Anyone who would resort to manipulating the "so-called" legal system, at the last minute, to try to pull this from the ballot is below contempt. Their attempt to manipulate the system speaks volumes to their true nature.

Fortunately in this case they weren't able to shop it to a activist judge.

Like this comment
Posted by jardins
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 29, 2010 at 10:01 pm

Did anyone read the New York Times piece a few days ago, about cities that have closed fire-stations because of city budget problems, and then in one case a toddler died because the station very close to his home was closed, and the response time from elsewhere was too long for him to survive??

Give this city council the power to close fire stations (in order to spend the saved money on some typically assinine project), and you'll get just the same result here.

Like this comment
Posted by danos
a resident of another community
on Aug 30, 2010 at 9:29 am

Just as I can only buy as much insurance as I can afford, a city can only pay for as much fire protection as it can afford. We all have to make do with what we can realistically pay for.

Like this comment
Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Aug 30, 2010 at 4:45 pm

"Did anyone read the New York Times piece a few days ago, about cities that have closed fire-stations because of city budget problems, and then in one case a toddler died because the station very close to his home was closed, and the response time from elsewhere was too long for him to survive??"

Palo Alto has already had cases like that - 4-5 months ago a man died from a heart attack. By chance both PA ambualance crews were tied up at the same incident, at that time of day one crew had an ambulance and the other was on a fire tuck. The person they were working on needed to be transported to the hosital. Meanwhile a call came in for a person who had feinted on his front lawn. A Fire unit was dispatched but that truck did not have a paramedic on board and the nearest avialable AMR unit had to come from the Los Gatos/Campbell area. Normally there should be a paramedic on all of the PA fire trucks, but staffing is already running light due to budget/hiring issues. The man who feinted actually had suffered a heart attack, he did not get medical help fast enough and he died.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 30, 2010 at 6:01 pm

It is amusing but also pathetic that ff's are posting on this site trying to scare PA residents in to thinking there are not enough ff's on duty including the example of the man who "feinted" and died. If there are always at least 30 ff's on duty every shift, and tons of ff's collecting O/T, how could a situation develop where two emergency calls absorbed all the resources. You guys are going to have to be more creative.

Who does PA allow any ff's to be on the payroll if they are not also trained as paramedics. At the rate they are being paid all the ff's should be highly crosstrained specialists.

This dept is over staffed and over compensated. Vote NO on R!

Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 31, 2010 at 9:01 am

@ jardins: Nice try. Dude, the city council already has the "power" to close a fire station. And guess what, they haven't closed one yet.

Feeble at best.

Like this comment
Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Sep 1, 2010 at 7:22 pm

Resident Community Center
The story about person who feinted and died is true. Also I have never been a FF although I know one - so it is not a pathetic story.

The issue most communities have is the cost of Police and Fire, not the number of people working. I agree something needs to change, but closing stations will create real risk and some people will suffer as a result.

Like this comment
Posted by Taxpayer
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 2, 2010 at 11:11 am

Alphonso - A person may have died due to a heart attack. But it is unlikely that the death was related to the the number of ff's on duty in Palo Alto at the time. PA could have 300 ff's on duty and it folks may still die due to heart attacks. The relevant issue is to have a balance between enough ff's to keep citizens safe and keeping expenses affordable.

If you are working on a budget, headcount and salaries are tightly linked. You are going to exceed your budget limitations if you pay too much per person or have too many staff on the payroll. In the case of the pafd, the problem is twofold:
- compensation is WAY too high for the level of work and responsibility
- staffing is also way too high.

No on R!

Like this comment
Posted by Jake
a resident of another community
on Sep 5, 2010 at 8:28 pm

Your statement and view, "staffing is also way too high"

How do you decide proper staffing levels? do you use a formula? industry standards? insurance industry tables? some sort of risk vs cost charts the rest of us are not privy to?
Unless you have some background in this area how can you so be so bold as to claim staffing is too high?

Like this comment
Posted by Taxpayer
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 7, 2010 at 2:49 pm


the PA ff over staffing has been revealed to me in many ways. i'm going to share a few with you and then let you go do some research on your own.

1.) i couldn't understand why when I went to Costco or Safeway, there was almost always a PA ff truck parked in the red, and a group of PA ff's wandering the aisles. was so strange to see paid employees with nothing to do, so they go out shopping.

2.) then there was a fire on my street. it was embarassing to see how many PA ff's showed up to stand around and try and look busy. it was almost laughable except that this is the same group promoting the feather bedding measure R.

3.) then i found out PA has 30 ff's sleeping away every night, and there is a fire in PA on average every other day. so it was clear that there is very little for PA ff's to do, but we have gads of them soaking up taxpayer $'s while they sleep away.

4.) then i found out Santa Cruz ff's serve a similar sized population with 50% of the personnel.

Now I'm guessing that a militant union promoter who is not concerned with the budget issues locally, at the state level, or at the national level, would think the PA ff staffing is just right. But I'm also guessing that most taxpayers would disagree and measure R will lose badly.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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